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A Basic Guide to U.S. Stamp Collections and Lots

The U.S. government sold its first postage stamp in 1847, and many people soon began collecting them. Whether you have a general stamp collection or you focus on one particular type of postage stamp or a particular theme or point in time, you can find interesting and affordable stamps to add to your collection on eBay.

What different types of U.S. postage stamps are there?

Throughout history, the U.S. government has issued different types of stamps, including:

  • Definitives: These stamps, sometimes called regular-issue stamps, are sold for an extended period of time and are designed to be used by consumers to send letters.
  • Commemoratives: These stamps were first issued in 1893, and they are designed to pay tribute to a person or event. They are sold for a short time with all extras being discarded.
  • Semi-postals: First issued in 1997, patrons' contributions are distributed to charity.
  • Airmail - First issued in 1918, these stamps are designated for sending overseas mail. Some of the rarer United States stamps are the two sold for Airmail Special Delivery to see that the letter was immediately delivered to an individual once it reached its destination.
  • Postage Due and Special Delivery: First issued in 1879, these stamps indicate that the recipient needs to take additional steps to have their letter delivered quickly.
  • Parcel Post: For a short time starting in 1912, people had to buy a special stamp to have the mail service deliver a package.
Stamps with mistakes are collector's favorites

Over the years, there have been many stamps not printed correctly that were released for sale to the public. The most common are misperforated stamps. Other times, the perforation is left out completely. Other stamps have been printed with one color being inadvertently missing. Sometimes these stamps are recalled and destroyed. This happened with the African-American cowboy Bill Pickett stamp showing the likeness of his younger brother. In 1918, at least one page of Jenny airmail stamps was sold to the public showing the iconic plane upside down. In 2013, the government reissued the stamp, meaning to invert the Jenny plane. Several pages, however, were sold with the plane printed right-side up.

What are some examples of U.S. commemorative sheets?

While you can separate commemorative issues, allowing you to use the individual stamps, the post office intends for these sheets to be maintained whole by collectors. There are several examples of these, including:

  • 1893 Columbus: This set of 16 stamps celebrates Columbus' 400th anniversary of the discovery of America.
  • Pan-American Expo of 1901: This set of six stamps celebrates the Expo, and they were the first bi-color commemoratives printed by the U.S. government.
  • Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St Louis: This set of five stamps was released in 1904. It was the last set issued by the postal service with the words "Commemorative Sheet" printed on it.
What U.S. stamps are available on eBay?

You can find a wide range of contemporary and vintage stamps on eBay. The categories offered are:

  • Quality: You can select Mint Never Hinged, Mint Hinged, Lightly Hinged, Original Gum, or No Gum.
  • Topic: Different topics are available, such as celebrities or ducks.
  • Features: You can also select by features. Options include "in album," "off paper," or "on paper."
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